National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility

Ulrich Baxa, Ph.D., (left) with Natalia De Val Alda, Ph.D., (right) of the Center for Molecular Microscopy (CMM) with the Titan Krios transmission electron microscope at the ATRF.The Frederick National Laboratory is home to the National Cryo-Electron Microscopy Facility (NCEF), a user facility to provide cancer researchers access to the latest technology for high resolution imaging with minimal delay between request for access and data collection. The facility addresses pressing national and regional needs for structural biologists to have access to advanced microscopes capable of supporting high-resolution cryo-EM studies. 

NCEF meets the needs of cancer researchers who are engaged in structural biology cryo-EM research and do not have adequate access to these instruments at their own institutions. The field of cryo-EM has undergone a revolution in recent years due to breakthroughs in detector technology and dramatic improvements for data analyzing techniques. Access to this technology can be prohibitively expensive for many institutions but is critical for acquiring the best data and generating the highest resolution structures.Thomas Edwards, Ph.D. at the National Cryo-EM Facility.

The National Cryo-EM Facility contains a Titan Krios microscope, which is fitted with a Falcon 3EC direct detector and a K2 Summit direct detector at the end of a Gatan imaging filter. A phase plate has been installed and the facility provides automated phase plate imaging for single particle and tomography upon request. Upgrade for the K2 summit camera to a K3 camera is planned.

Specialists in cryo-EM data collection and microscope operation, who are staff members at the Frederick National Laboratory, operate the facility and provide users with data for their research. Additional microscopes will be added in the coming year.  

The facility is available to prospective users who provide a statement that their project is relevant to cancer research. The initial aim of NCEF is to produce cryo-EM images collected on state-of-the-art instruments to scientists who can show that they have specimens of the required quality ready for high resolution imaging.